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Interior Ministry: Extreme nationalist group Finland First suspected of dozens of violent crimes

The extreme nationalist organisation Finland First (Suomi Ensin) is suspected of committing up to 30 criminal offences during a months-long sit-in at Helsinki’s Central Railway Station last year, according to the Interior Ministry.

suomi ensin -leiri helsingin rautatientorilla 18.5.2017
The Finland First protester camp was still intact in May 2017. Image: Mårten Lampén / Yle

Some of the offences that Finland First demonstrators are suspected of committing include varying degrees of assault. The data came from an Interior Ministry report released Monday on violent extremism in Finland.

The ministry uses the term violent extremism to refer to the use of violence, threats or incitement to back up a certain worldview.

Last February, Finland First anti-immigration activists gathered in downtown Helsinki to stage a counter-demonstration to a group of asylum seekers who were protesting asylum policy in Finland. Both groups of protesters originally settled at the plaza in front of the Kiasma museum, but police relocated them to the railway station. Police later cleared both camps at the end of June.

According to the report, the Finland First group were responsible for a series of public disturbances during the months they occupied the space at the railway station.

Majority of suspected violence committed by far-right elements

The ministry report said that last year, police booked a total of roughly 100 offences that authorities believed were motivated by violent extremism. More than half of the reported crimes were linked to far-right elements. Officials deemed that one-third were related to religious extremism, while the rest were attributed to extreme-left radical movements.

The review noted that the number of offences reported by police might be imprecise given that some incidents might have been booked as a single crime or as separate offences.

Currently, the most prominent extreme-right group in Finland is the Nordic Resistance Movement (Pohjoismainen Vastarintaliike or PVL), which was shut down by Pirkanmaa District Court in November 2017. However the ruling is not yet enforceable because the organisation has appealed the decision in a higher court, with hearings expected to begin in August.

In its ruling, the Pirkanmaa court cited a compelling social requirement to ban the organisation and said that the prohibition served the public interest. According to the court, PVL targets many parties using hate speech, casts itself as a victim and claims that violence is a legitimate form of self-defence.

The court also declared that in a bid to accomplish its objectives, PVL emphasises the use of force and aggression and also embraces and encourages violence. The National Police Board filed the motion to ban the organisation.

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